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All about Almodóvar

All about Almodóvar: A Passion for Cinema

Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 504
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  • Book Info
    All about Almodóvar
    Book Description:

    One of world cinema’s most exciting filmmakers, Pedro Almodóvar has been delighting, provoking, arousing, shocking, and—above all—entertaining audiences around the globe since he first burst on the international film scene in the early 1980s. All about Almodóvar offers new perspectives on the filmmaker’s artistic vision and cinematic preoccupations, influences, and techniques. Through overviews of his oeuvre and in-depth analyses of specific films, the essays here explore a diverse range of subjects.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6788-8
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. INTRODUCTION Approaching Almodóvar: Thirty Years of Reinvention
    (pp. 1-34)

    Pedro Almodóvar is something of a paradox—scintillatingly so. Celebrated and denigrated by critics as serious and superficial, political and apolitical, moral and immoral, feminist and misogynist, experimental and sentimental, universal and provincial, Almodóvar has charted a path from the countercultural margins of his native Spain to an international mainstream which, while still consistent with the Institutional Mode of Representation as developed and criticized by Noël Burch, is not reducible to its dominant Hollywood modality. In an international context characterized by major studio consolidations, streamlined formulas, blockbuster productions, and, as noted, the global dominance of Hollywood, Almodóvar is an independent...


    • 1 Almodóvar on Television: Industry and Thematics
      (pp. 37-50)

      Television is vital to an understanding of Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema, both because Almodóvar and his independent production company El Deseo have often relied on television for production funding and distribution and because the films themselves engage consistently and substantially with the medium. It is characteristic, then, that Almodóvar’s first and fifteenth features are framed by references to television. In the crazy farce that is his first feature,Pepi,Luci,Bom(1980), Carmen Maura, who plays the perverse heiress Pepi, at one point sets herself up as an advertising producer. Her first project is a spot for knickers with a twist:...

    • 2 Queer Sound: Musical Otherness in Three Films by Pedro Almodóvar
      (pp. 51-70)

      Despite its long history of accompanying cinema, music in some sense is always potentially other. Film scholars have written of the classic film score’s invisibility; its subordination to story, its submerged role as a guide—or goad—to emotions, and its suturing effects in providing the illusion of continuity against the fragmented character of the motion picture medium, effective to the extent that it remains unacknowledged.¹ Accordingly, music, when it emerges from its conventionally secondary role, shows itself for what it is and contests the presumed dominance of the visual track, represents a disturbing element, a source of possibly overpowering...

    • 3 Performing Identities in the Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
      (pp. 71-100)

      Performance is a central aspect of Pedro Almodóvar’s cinema that at once underscores and outstrips, in its particularities, the general performative condition of cinema itself. Many of Almodóvar’s characters are musicians, singers, stage and screen actors, dubbers, television personalities, drag queens, bullfighters, and others whose characterization is closely tied to performance. In many respects, Almodóvar’s exposition of the performative nature of culture, particularly as it bears on gender and sexuality, seems to support John Mckenzie’s claim that ours is an “age of performance” just as the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were the “age of reason.” With that general proposition in...

    • 4 Acts of Violence in Almodóvar
      (pp. 101-117)

      From his earliest films, Pedro Almodóvar has maintained an interest in the crosscurrents of sex and violence. One of the posters forPepi,Luci,Bom(1980), a sort of adult cartoon depiction of some scenes from the film, shows a man striking a woman, with the wordTakadded to emphasize the thump on her face.Volver(2006), one of Almodóvar’s most recent films, deals explicitly and dramatically with domestic abuse. Indeed, violent sexual practices that deviate from the mainstream abound in his films, showing extremes of behavior that can be shocking to audiences, especially in the context of rising...

    • 5 Heart of Farce: Almodóvar’s Comic Complexities
      (pp. 118-138)

      The moment when a daughter discovers that her mother has not died but is in fact still alive should, one might reasonably expect, be a moment of intense emotional depth. Yet what happens to that emotional depth if the daughter makes this discovery while she is urinating, her knickers pulled down to her knees, and bases her conclusion on the lingering smell of her mother’s farts? This is what happens at a pivotal point in Pedro Almodóvar’sVolver(2006), which, in the collision that it mischievously engineers between a profound thematic seriousness and a robust delight in what is quite...


    • 6 Mimesis and Diegesis: Almodóvar and the Limits of Melodrama
      (pp. 141-165)

      One of the key features that mark out Almodóvar as an auteur is his consistent borrowing from genre movies, in particular his acknowledged debt to Hollywood melodrama. This constitutes something of a paradox, for genre films are usually defined in opposition to auteurist attributes based on the assumption that genres—as industry-driven products—tend to work against authorial originality. Almodóvar’s melodrama is, however, selfconscious, aware of its existence in a world where film melodramas already exist. The Oscar-winning and critically acclaimed 1999 filmAll about My Motheris the culmination of Almodóvar’s exploration of melodrama. But toward the end of...

    • 7 Melancholy Melodrama: Almodovarian Grief and Lost Homosexual Attachments
      (pp. 166-192)

      Adrienne Rich’s words celebrating the missing female tragedy of “mother–daughter passion and rapture” have always haunted me. Her claim that the “cathexis between mother and daughter—essential, distorted, misused—is the great unwritten story” (225) strikes me as both terribly true, in the sense that thereisno powerfully acknowledged high cultural valuation of the loss of mother to daughter and daughter to mother, but also as terribly false. For if there is no essential female tragedy of mother–daughter, there is certainly plenty of melodrama. In the form of maternal melodrama (whether popular novels, film, radio, television), the...

    • 8 Intimate Strangers: Melodrama and Coincidence in Talk to Her
      (pp. 193-238)

      Marco and Alicia seem to meet for the first time during the intermission of Pina Bausch’sMasurca Fogo, the performance that concludesTalk to Her(2002). Although this is not in fact their first meeting, it marks the first time that they are both conscious and aware of the other’s presence: Alicia (Leonor Watling) was in a coma when Marco (Dario Grandinetti) first saw her in the hospital, and she could not see him when he spotted her in the ballet studio across the street after her recovery. In this first mutual meeting, and in a subtle reversal of how...


    • 9 Almodóvar’s Girls
      (pp. 241-266)

      The title of Pedro Almodóvar’sAll about My Mother(1999) makes promises that can be neither easily defined nor easily fulfilled. The title in Spanish—Todo sobre mi madre—proposes, overambitiously we may suspect, to tell us everything there is to know about “my mother,” although we may also wonder if what we are being promised is a film entirelyabout“my mother,” one in which everything—todo—has her as its subject. And, of course, the second promise is not necessarily identical to the first: I could speak exclusively about my mother without telling you everything there is to...

    • 10 All about the Brothers: Retroseriality in Almodóvar’s Cinema
      (pp. 267-294)

      In 1987, when I interviewed Pedro Almodóvar shortly after the release ofLaw of Desire, he told me that the most important thing about the movie was that it was a story of two brothers (“Pleasure and the New Spanish Mentality” 33–44). Although I did not find the comment illuminating at the time, I do now as I look back atLaw of DesirethroughBad Education(2004) and the comments that Almodóvar has made about fraternity in its wake: “Fraternity is the result of two great feelings, love and friendship, bound together by something as unfathomable as consanguinity”...

    • 11 Blind Shots and Backward Glances: Reviewing Matador and Labyrinth of Passion
      (pp. 295-338)

      When I watch a film, I am struck by how much I do not see, cannot see, no matter how much I reverse and review, no matter how much I reflect on the images that, moving mechanically before me, I bring to a quasi-photographic stop.¹ Seeing a film critically entails, of course, seeing it over and again, as if the breakage or separation that is at the root of “critique” could be overcome by dint of repetition and the elusive fullness of meaning could finally be captured.² Yet this critically oriented repetition, compellingly close to obsession, entails an arrestation that...

    • 12 Missing a Beat: Syncopated Rhythms and Subterranean Subjects in the Spectral Economy of Volver
      (pp. 339-356)

      “It is the wind, this damnSolanowind that makes people lose their minds,” says Raimunda (Penélope Cruz) as she sits at the wheel of her car somewhere between her Manchegan village and Madrid in an early scene fromVolver(2006).¹ She makes the comment while driving beneath the huge luminous skies and among the towering modern wind turbines that “populate” the landscape of southern-central Spain. It is the wind, racing among the graves being cleaned by the women in a ritual act of remembrance, that provides an impalpable protagonist for the film’s opening sequence, one that occasions what Jacques...

    • 13 Postnostalgia in Bad Education: Written on the Body of Sara Montiel
      (pp. 357-386)

      Unlike any of Pedro Almodóvar’s previous films,Bad Education(2004) is deeply rooted in the historical specificity of the Francoist period. The rubbish of Spanish popular culture, relegated to oblivion but recycled in images, sounds, and cultural associations from the past, has usually appeared as incidental comic details in Almodóvar’s cinema (Yarza 17). Not untilBad Education, however, have these artifacts, many of them kitsch, assumed so central a position in the formulation of his cinematic narratives. In this new turn of his auteurist style, Almodóvar gives special privilege to the figure of Sara Montiel, the legendary Spanish star of...


    • 14 Inside Almodóvar
      (pp. 389-407)

      Knowledge and technique,logosandtechnē, go hand in hand in the work of art, that of the cinema most definitely included. Even thoughtechnēis most commonly associated with a practical ability, in the area of art it is associated, as Heidegger reminds us, not merely with a practical task but also, and more importantly, with “a mode of knowing,” which means, among other things, “to have seen, in the widest sense of seeing, which means to apprehend what is present, as such” (57). Endowed with such perceptual qualities, art not only re-presents reality but also, as was said...

    • 15 Pepi, Patty, and Beyond: Cinema and Literature in Almodóvar
      (pp. 408-428)
      FRANCISCO A. ZURIÁN and Francisco J. Sutil

      Pedro Almodóvar is a filmmaker consumed by a need to tell stories. His relation to narrative recalls Gabriel García Márquez’s description of storytelling as a “bendita manía,” a blessed madness, as well as Truman Capote’s description of writing as an exacting gift. Drawing explicitly on Capote’sMusic for Chameleons, Almodóvar expressed his passion for narrative as follows inAll about My Mother(1999):

      Manuela (reading Truman Capote): Preface. I started writing when I was eight.

      Esteban: You see? I am not the only one.

      Manuela: Not knowing that I had chained myself for life to a noble and merciless master....

    • 16 Bad Education: Fictional Autobiography and Meta–Film Noir
      (pp. 429-445)

      It almost seems as if Pedro Almodóvar, after the critical and popular success ofAll about My Mother(1999) andTalk to Her(2002), defies his achievements by steeringBad Education(2004) toward the bizarre, tinted with horror and largely bereft of the sense of human solidarity that characterized his two previous films. In some respects, the turn to darkness after enjoying the bright lights of success is not new: afterWomen on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown(1988), an international sensation that remains one of the highest-grossing films in Spanish history, Almodóvar explored the bizarre and violent in...

  8. CODA Volver: A Filmmaker’s Diary
    (pp. 446-464)

    A man comes up to me while I am having breakfast in a bar. He tells me he’s seenBad Educationthree times. I thank him, as I normally do.

    “The first time I fell asleep,” the stranger explains.

    “Did it bore you that much?”

    “No, on the contrary,” he says. “I was totally into it but I got sleepy and I let myself go. Then, of course, I went to see it again since the bit I had watched left me very intrigued.”


    “I liked it better than the first time but, again, at one point I was...

  9. Filmography of Pedro Almodóvar
    (pp. 465-466)
    (pp. 467-470)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 471-496)